Tor vs. VPN: Which Is More Secure for Private Communication?

As the online world grows, privacy and anonymity are at the forefront of most internet users. You need to ensure your online activity remains private, and that your personal information does not fall into wrong hands. Thus, the most powerful tools for your online security are the VPNs and Tor browser. VPN and Tor are similar in many ways, but their differences make them useful in different circumstances. Before you choose one over the other, you should understand how each works so that you can make the right choice for private communication.

What Is Tor and How Does It Work?

Short for The Onion Router, Tor is a free software popular for providing anonymity by encrypting web traffic and routing it through a series of nodes, and accessing the dark web. These nodes are volunteer-operated servers that receive your traffic, making it difficult for anyone to trace its origin. The last, or exit, node decrypts the data before directing it to the website you want to visit.

Since only the entry node sees your IP, Tor ensures that your browsing activity can never be linked back to you. But that is just as far as its security goes. Volunteers operate the nodes, meaning anyone, including spies and hackers, can set up an exit node, and see the traffic leaving through it.

Other problems making Tor unsuitable for private communication include the following:

  • Exit nodes can be manipulated by anyone
  • Your data may easily leak if you access a website not on the dark web and which doesn’t use the secure HTTPS
  • Surveillance organizations can tell if you are on Tor, and keep you on their watch list
  • Tor only protects the traffic from the Tor browser

What Is VPN and How Does It Work?

VPN (Virtual Private Network) connects your device to a server in a country of your choice through a secure tunnel, thereby masking your IP address. It would appear you are accessing the internet from the chosen country instead of your real location.

A VPN combining with encryption would provide the optimal solution for online security and anonymity. Spies or hackers won’t see the sites you are accessing, and won’t know where you are accessing them from. It would also prevent sites that collect your information for the purpose of targeting ads depending on your interests.

Here is a brief run-down on how a VPN works:

  • Open an account with your preferred VPN provider, and pay the subscription fee.
  • To use your VPN account on your device, log into the provider’s client software and choose the country depending on your needs.
  • If you need speed and security, select a server closest to your physical location.
  • But if you need to bypass censorship and geo-blocking, choose a server from a different country.
  • Once the VPN connection is set, the software encrypts all your data before tunneling it through a server of your choice.
  • The server receives the data and forwards it to the website you want to access.
  • It masks your IP effectively because the website sees the data as coming from the server rather than your device, making you completely anonymous.

Reasons a VPN Is More Secure for Private Communication Than Tor

Although both Tor and VPN are excellent options for online security and anonymity, they are completely different when it comes to securing private communication. Choose the Tor browser if you want to access the dark web, and uncover the dark secrets hidden beneath the online surface. It keeps you completely anonymous, but anyone may see your data by creating an exit node, hence, not the best choice for private communication.

Here is why a VPN would be better than Tor when it comes to private communication:

End-to-End Encryption

A man sitting in front of a laptop with holographic security lock for provate communication concept.

A VPN provides end-to-end encryption, making your data 100% invisible from spies and hackers. But Tor hides the origin of the data, but the data is visible to anyone who can create and open a node. Spies and hackers can take advantage of this loophole to eavesdrop on your traffic and see its destination. The best way to use Tor is to access the dark web, or websites with HTTPS enabled on them.

Kill Switches

In the uncommon event that that your connection to the VPN fails, most VPN providers provide kill switches that would disconnect your internet immediately, preventing your sensitive information from leaking out of the network. But Tor is susceptible to data leaks and attacks since a bad node would expose your data, including login credentials, which anyone would be able to download as plaintext by creating an exit node. This would be bad news for your private communication.

VPN Is Faster Than Tor

Tor can be painfully slow depending on the number of nodes on the network, which creates multiple layers of security. This would be quite inconvenient for your private communication which may require some urgency. VPNs are faster because they have no impact on your internet connection speed, especially if you are subscribing to a premium service.

Ease of Use

VPNs are quite easy to use, even by beginners. All you need is to set up an account with your preferred VPN service provider, and select a country to mask your real IP and location. When it comes to Tor, which is a browser, further configuration is needed after installation and set-up. Beginners may not be conversant with this procedure.

Torrenting and Streaming

You can stream and download torrents over a VPN, but you have to be sure to sign up with one that offers fast speeds. You can’t do the same on Tor since most exit nodes tend to block any traffic from torrent and streaming sites. This means that you wouldn’t be able to share confidential streams or torrents on Tor.

Learn More About the Best Private Communication Tools

Although both Tor and VPN offer anonymity online, VPN is the better bet for private communication. It provides end-to-end encryption, so no one can read your data, and no one can tell its source and destination. Your small and medium business can use a VPN for its online security, and it wouldn’t have to break the bank for it. If you are looking for more information about online security, or want the best VPN for your business, please contact us for more details.

James Forbis
Written by James Forbis
Posted on: March 18, 2021